Thousands mass for Kashmir separatist rally, crying 'freedom': AFP
Thousands mass for Kashmir separatist rally, crying 'freedom'
August 22, 2008, AFP
SRINAGAR, India (AFP) — Hundreds of thousands of people massed in Indian Kashmir's main city on Friday to demand "azadi" or freedom and protest against New Delhi's rule in the second major demonstration this week.
"The rally is to show to the world that we are against India's occupation of Kashmir," said separatist leader Shabir Shah, who has spent more than 20 years in Indian jails.
Protesters began marching from early morning toward the site of the rally, the "Martyrs' Cemetery" where many of those killed in the nearly two-decade-old revolt against New Delhi's rule are buried.
The demonstrators, carrying black and green flags symbolising Islam and mourning, shouted "azadi." Many banners had "Allahu akbar" ("God is greater") written in white Arabic letters.
The huge turnout showed that Kashmiris "want to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination" through a referendum, moderate separatist Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said.
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Arundhati slammed for demanding Kashmir’s freedom
By Jawed Naqvi, Dawn, August 22, 2008
NEW DELHI, Aug 21: The Indian government on Thursday slammed writer Arundhati Roy for her comments in Srinagar where she reportedly demanded “azadi” for Kashmir during a rally at the UN office.
“It is preposterous for anyone to say so. It deserves to be rejected with contempt,” Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma said.
“We are a constitutional democracy and what is against the constitution has to be strongly condemned. One must remember in our country, there is room for all shades of opinion. But India’s territorial integrity is not negotiable.”
India’s main political parties — the BJP and the Congress party — lashed out at Ms Roy for her comments, of which newspapers circulated several versions. One of them reported that the Booker Prize winner Roy, who was present at the massive Monday rally, said the people of Kashmir had made themselves abundantly clear.
“And if no one is listening then it is because they don’t want to hear. Because this is a referendum. People don’t need anyone to represent them; they are representing themselves. As somebody who has followed people’s movements and who has been in rallies and at the heart or the edge of things, I don’t think you can dispute what you see here,” she was quoted as saying.
She was also quoted as saying that “since the 1930s, there have been debates and disputes about who has the right to represent the Kashmiri people, whether it was Hari Singh or Sheikh Abdullah or someone else. And the debate continues till today whether it is the Hurriyat or some other party.”
Then she added, “But I think today the people have represented themselves.”
Ms Roy apparently concluded thus: “India needs azadi from Kashmir as much as Kashmir needs azadi from India.”
Congress spokesperson Abdhishek Singhvi reacted by saying India would not compromise on an inch of its territorial integrity. “To put it mildly, it is utter nonsense. To provoke people and make such irresponsible statements will not be tolerated.”
BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar described Ms Roy’s statement as “outrageous”. “This is outrageous. This is against national spirit and nationalism. She is attacking the integrity of the country. This is nothing short of sedition,” he said adding that the country did not approve of her stand.
Ms Roy’s defiant political positions had once landed her in Tihar jail, after she preferred imprisonment in lieu of apologising to the apex court for alleged contempt of court.
For Background, see:
8 die as Indian soldiers, Kashmir separatists clash - CNN